Unearth (2020)

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Unearth: Directed by John C. Lyons, Dorota Swies. With Adrienne Barbeau, Marc Blucas, Allison McAtee, Brooke Sorenson. A fracking horror story, “Unearth” follows two neighboring farm families whose relationships are strained when one of them chooses to lease their land to an oil and gas company. In the midst of growing tension, the land is drilled, and something long dormant and terrifying, deep beneath the earth’s surface is released. “Unearth” is about the horrifying repercussions sown by shortsighted decisions, and what our children reap from our actions.

“As a horror fan, I really do enjoy a good slow burn movie. With Unearth, quite a bit of time is taken with the build up, the story, and the development of the characters, whereas in other films, the eventual horror may feel playful or cathartic, Unearthu0026#39;s patience denies you this, and instead takes an unflinching look at how bad things happen to people. Not good people, or bad people. Just people. Thereu0026#39;s no big morality play here. Sure, it serves as a cautionary tale about our planet and our relationship to it. Yet, in Unearth, these people donu0026#39;t u0026quot;get what they deserveu0026quot;, and which is even more harrowing. Because more often than not, that is exactly how life plays out.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThis is a film about character, something too many horror films get panned for skimping out on. Way too many reviews read: u0026quot;We feel nothing for these characters, so we donu0026#39;t care when bad things happen to themu0026quot;. The opposite is true here. The film spends an inordinate amount of time sketching out these people, who they are, and how they live their lives. Itu0026#39;s a huge investment that the directors obviously want us to make, as they commit two-thirds of the runtime to said investment, and to be frank; I think itu0026#39;s worth it.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAdirenne Barbeau redefines the role of a family matriarch in this film. Crude. Overbearing, and played to perfection. I got flashes of her performance from Creepshow at times, but where that role had zero nuance, playing exclusively for camp; this performance replaces that with weight and a deep sense of family devotion, loyalty, and love. She knows whatu0026#39;s right. She knows what needs to be done. Is it the easy thing to do? No. Does she go about doing it or saying it in the right way? Absolutely not. Itu0026#39;s these types of characters that make for fascinating stories.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eLikewise, Marc Blucas is not an actor I am well acquainted with, but just like Barbeau, his performance here is deliciously layered. Where Barbeau knows what is right but isnu0026#39;t couth enough to make it happen, Blucasu0026#39;s portrayal of her neighbor, a single father to a teenage mother, has no idea what is right and what is wrong anymore. He is out of choices. So he makes the only one left to him. Itu0026#39;s a brilliant contrast between the two.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eP. J. Marshall and Monica Wyche were the other stand outs to me. Aching for something more, something else, and making what choices they can in a world made to crush them. I have known too many people like this, and as refreshing as it can be to see such reality paint itself across the screen, it can also be heart wrenching.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe directors were obviously careful in making sure the setting reflected the characters they were placing within them. Growing up in rural PA, I have always had a soft spot for films that felt like places I have been, seen, and grew up in, with Winteru0026#39;s Bone being a wonderful example of this. Here Lyons and Swies opt for that same feeling. The cars are rusty, the tractor has seen better days, homes are constructed out of blankets for walls, and three decade old couches as living room centerpieces. These homes are hot and full of dust in the summer, and likewise they are drafty and smell of burning wood in the winter.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe tension and atmosphere in this, especially towards the final third of the film, reminded me of The Dark and The Wicked. A film that redefines what u0026quot;bleaku0026quot; can mean in a film. Relentless. Unstoppable. And unsympathetic. Itu0026#39;s shocking without gratuity. It hurts because it doesnu0026#39;t care. Thereu0026#39;s no motivation here. And for some, this makes for uneasy viewing. I have a few qualms with the ultimate ending, as I donu0026#39;t think it quite delivers once the genie is out of the bottle and we have seen the terrible repercussions. The final minutes just left me cold, which is a shame, because what immediately precedes it is grueling.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eI do wish the inevitable, lurking threat would have been hinted at sooner, and that the film could have hit its u0026quot;horroru0026quot; stride a bit sooner. But then again, if Lyons and Swies had skimped on their characters, would we have cared as much for them, or would we have cared for what this film is ultimately trying to say?”

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